I never finished the posts about my day at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and a lot of people enjoyed the bears, so I guess it's safe to share a few more pictures or Alaska's most intriguing residents, the Grizzly Bear. Noteably the last post about bears was heavy on pictures and scant on words...which may have been why it was a extra enjoyable for many. You shall not be so lucky today. Now...about Grizzly Bears as I understand them thus far.
A. Grizzly Bears are amazing. If you see one this close without a lot of zoom and a fence...you are too close and the chances of it ending badly are ridiculously high. For the record, this was taken on the other side of a fence and seriously cropped. And even at that distance, it was awesome.
B. The North American Grizzly bear is now compromised of just a few species. Ursus arctos spp horribilis (which is just really not nice and not helping gain empathy for conservation) is the Grizzly Bear, and then there are latin names for the peninsular grizzly and the Kodiak brown bear. They look similar to us rookies, but any northerner will tell you they are very different. And that's it. The California Grizzly and the Mexican Grizzly are extinct. California is currently trying to reintroduce the closely related mainland grizzly (as in efforts are ongoing as of 2014), but as for the native species...it's gone. Maybe that's why I have always had such a soft spot for these giant bears. Their safe spaces in Canada are seriously limited as well. I have high hopes that Alaska will remain a stronghold for them. It matters. To me it matters a lot.
So, I finally saw some bear tracks, from the safety of my side of the fence.
Made by the padded feet of this giant little guy padding about. At the conservation center, there is one Grizzly (Hugo), who was rescued after she collapsed near Hugo mountain. She had hundreds of porcupine quills in her feet and could not walk...she was malnourished and dehydrated, and this is one of those time humanity stepped up to the plate -- some snowmobilers called the Conservation Center and got her rescued. There are also two brown bears, Joe Boxer and Patron, who arrived at the center after their mother was shot. She followed a moose into town and killed it for food for her cubs, and was shot in someone's backyard. I do believe this bear below is one of the Kodiak Brown bears...so Joe Boxer or Patron.
There are also 2 black bears at the Conservation Center...but they were still sleeping the day I took these pictures. Alaska had a mild winter, and staff at the Conservation Center said the Grizzlies did not hibernate at all, which is unusual.
C. Grizzlies have long been feared for the devastation an encounter causes. They can weigh up to 2, 250 pounds and have 6 inch claws. Their jaws can crush your skull. Grizzlies do not set out to harm anyone...but if you inadvertently surprise them, or get between them and their food, or them and their offspring, their defensive aggression kicks in. From what I have read, they do not simply stop when the threat is neutralized. If you are deemed a threat, they will hit you with their full arsenal of strength, repeatedly. They say to never make eye contact or fight back with a grizzly. It gave me an evolutionary epiphany...what on earth did the grizzly bears face 50,000 years ago when they came to North America and fine tuned these reactions to perception of danger. I don't think I want to know.
But back to the amazing stuff about bears. D. Bears are highly intelligent. They have shown creative thinking and problem solving skills (just the other day saw a video of a bear who climbed a tree and tried to shimmy the length of a wire holding a food cache to get the goodies...he fell...but it was a solid effort). They have a life span of >20 years if all goes well...maybe that is what gives them such a presence. Who is to say bears don't know their history. They do observe a hierarchy.
One foot in front of the other lol. Just like us.
|the back paw out|
I got a kick out of this picture. Bears have incredible smell. Their vision is not quite so good. But the nose or snout of a bear is quite long, and in this picture, you can almost see a twisted grin on the bears snout.
|king of the hill|
Who says a bear doesn't want a nice house to go home to at the end of the day? Bears more typically live in dens...but in this case there happened to be a cottage available. When in Rome... This little bear (by little I mean 500-800 pounds) decided to cozy up and have a little nap.
Little closer shot of the house bear....
That's about it for bear pictures for now. I was elated with my day at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. I hope to get back several times this year!